After outbreaks of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea, six countries have been placed under “urgent alert.”By Edouard Touré
The World Health Organization (WHO) said with this measure, it wants to avoid the spectre of another epidemic crisis.
“We have already alerted the six neighbouring countries, including of course Sierra Leone and Liberia (Guinean’s neighbours), and they are acting very quickly to prepare and be ready and to search for any potential infection,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a virtual press conference from Geneva on Tuesday.
However, she did not specify the other countries in addition to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The DRC borders eight countries: Angola, Burundi, Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Zambia.
Guinea shares five land borders with Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The last two countries are closest to Forest Guinea.
According to WHO, within a few days of each other, cases of Ebola have emerged in DRC and Guinea.
The West African country has ten suspected cases and three people have already died from the virus since the start of the new epidemic.
“We now know that there are 7 cases (3 confirmed, 4 suspected) in Guinea and that 3 of them have died,” the WHO spokeswoman noted.
The WHO official added: “We have identified 115 contacts and the majority of them, 109, have been found. The contacts are in Nzérékoré (in the south-east of the country) but also in Conakry, the Guinean capital.”
The WHO is supporting the Guinean authorities in setting up treatment structures for contact tracing and to speed up the response.
In eastern DRC, the UN World Health Agency has already identified 300 contacts.
“We also have an ongoing epidemic in North Kivu, there is no link between the two. We have seen no evidence of any link. But they are continuing at the same time,” Dr Harris said.
While the DRC and Guinea are several thousand kilometres apart, ruling out a priori any link between these concomitant events, the return of Ebola has caused concern especially in West Africa.
“The epidemics in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo are totally independent, but we are facing similar challenges in both cases,” WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros said during his bi-weekly virtual conference on Monday.
Causing a brutal fever, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea, the Ebola virus was first identified in 1976 in Zaire now DRC.
The end of the eleventh epidemic in this country, which caused the death of 55 people out of 130 cases recorded in Equateur province (north-west), was declared on 18 November.
The Guinean epidemic started in December 2013 from Forest Guinea before spreading to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It was extinguished in 2016, causing more than 28,000 cases, including more than 11,000 deaths.